We Deserve More

After a few days in Amsterdam, I reflect on U.S. bicycling culture.

We Deserve More
Photograph by Ayşe Gürsöz / Instagram

LISTENING: to water boil on the stove
FEELING: grateful to be home
SEEING: my lil kitty clean himself

I visited Amsterdam last week for the first time. I was shocked by the way bicyclists ran the city. I knew this already, but seeing it in person was something else entirely. It was riveting.

I wondered: Why can't we have this back home?

I live in New York City where people definitely bike, but people here are also killed by bicycling. New York is not a safe city to be a bicyclist. As it turns out, bicyclists are killed in Amsterdam, too. I guess nowhere is safe, but some places are safer.

I'd like to imagine a world where families can get where they need to without requiring a car, without releasing pollution, without spending even more time seated and motionless. I'd love a world where my future kids and I could ride with ease, safety, and peace. Is that possible?

Welcome to Possibilities, a creative climate newsletter on the possibilities that lie where crisis meets community. I’m Yessenia Funes, and we're talking about bikes today.

I still remember learning how to ride a bike. It was painful. No kid likes to fall and then brush themselves off to try again. It's one of the few memories I have with my dad, though, whom I'm mostly estranged from these days. As a kid, my bike meant freedom. It meant movement. I'd ride to my friends' houses. I'd even ride to see a boy I was innocently crushing on. Those days were wonderful. Magical, even.

Now, I own an e-bike and pride myself on bicycling when I can. I don't do it nearly enough — my partner is the better bicyclist, haha — but that's, in part, because I'm always a little anxious before I take off on my bike. My mind can be a dark place, and I can't help but anticipate the worst. It's for good reason.

In the U.S., everyone and their moms seemed to purchase a bike after COVID-19 emerged. When the pandemic struck, New York was the epicenter for a period. My e-bike saved me. It helped me leave my home and get out in nature. It brought my partner and me closer. I wrote about this in the early days of my time at Atmos. I love bikes, and I wish they were the norm in the U.S.

Unfortunately, we're seeing bike deaths on the rise — a 5 percent increase in recent years compared to 2012 to 2016, per Axios. Cities like New Orleans and Tucson, Arizona, have the highest per capita death rate while smaller cities like El Paso, Texas, and Madison, Wisconsin (the cutest city!), have seen the lowest.

Bike lanes are an obvious solution — but so is a cultural shift. We need drivers to ride bikes, too. That's part of what makes Amsterdam's bike culture so strong (even if it's not perfect). Drivers are taught to consider bicyclists. They often ride bikes, too. In the U.S., that's not really the case. Most people I know who bike to get around don't own a car. That's why they bike. And most people I know who own a car only cycle recreationally (if at all), not as a form of transportation.

We deserve more. We deserve to feel the wind in our hair. We deserve the satisfaction that comes with pedaling uphill. We deserve the thrill of coming down that hill on the way back home. We deserve fun forms of exercise.

How do we transform our culture? I'm not sure, but I know the shift starts with people like you and me. It starts with putting one pedal in front of another. My niece still doesn't know how to ride a bike. I think I'm going to buy her a bicycle for Christmas this year so that she's ready to ride come spring.

That's how we can plant the seeds for change: by sharing joy in the little things. 🌀

Rest in Power

While we can't say for certain that climate change led to these specific weather events (we need attribution studies for that), we do know that the Earth's rising temperatures are already creating more disasters like these.

Some 100 people may be dead after the awful hurricane that tore through Mexico last week.

Over the weekend, a community in Warsaw, Texas, saw flooding that killed at least two people.

At least seven people have died in Yemen due to Cyclone Tej, which hit last weekend. The Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu saw deaths, too, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child.

In my ancestral lands of El Salvador, at least three people died from flooding Tropical Storm Pilar brought Tuesday. Another person has died in Honduras.

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